Love it, hate it, love it again.. hate it again, this game divides my opinion of it like no other.

The Last Guardian Review

The Last Guardian first announced all the way back in 2007 has at long last been released. While always curious I was never to fussed about whether this game was actually going to be playable and while I’m glad it’s finally in the hands of the players one does wonder what the team was actually doing for all those years?

Have you ever wanted to run around some ruins with a big bird, dog, cat thing which *ahem* shoots lightning out of its tail? Well then The Last Guardian is most certainly for you. All jokes aside that is pretty much the game. As ‘the boy’ players wake up alongside ‘Trico’ a beast of some description chained up, covered in wounds and the remnants of armor, in a tutorial like sequence you build its trust and soon set out together on a quest of simply heading up. The story is very simplistic but not in a bad way. The boy narrates the story, but these moments are very rare and left intentionally cryptic. The story is instead mostly told through the interactions between the boy and Trico and is more about the journey than the final destination. There is little use of cinematics, no other main characters and no collectibles or similar story telling devices used throughout the game. The story has a very fairy tale like quality to it or a very Legend of Zelda type vibe and while not particularly complex it’s unlike anything else I’ve personally ever played. As such it’s hard to criticize the story seeing as it’s very unique and more importantly the kind of story that can only be told in video game format, but seeing as the game was in development for so long one wonders why the story could not have been something so much more?

As always gameplay is the most important aspect of any video game experience and this is where The Last Guardian is at its best and unfortunately at its worst. Even before embarking on the adventure the controls feel wrong. The camera for example I found to be very sticky and delayed, there are many moments when I simply wanted to stop and look around, the camera unfortunately did not make this as nice as it could have been, at other times as many other reviewers have mentioned the camera can be truly awful in tight spaces, particularly when riding on Trico. The gameplay itself mostly consists of platforming, light puzzle solving and a sprinkling of combat, the whole time players only ever control the boy with Trico acting of his own accord or taking basic instruction from the player. Again the controls just like the camera feel delayed and as such take some getting used to, when it clicks it clicks well but at other times simply moving around can be a pain as the controls often fight against you. One of the biggest joys of the game and one of the most frustrating is Trico himself. At times Trico will do exactly what you want him to do or will even do the right thing without the player needing to issue instruction. At other times however Trico will simply not obey player commands, will often leave you behind, will stand about looking confused and so on. I’m all for creating a believable creature after all the story and gameplay are built upon the relationship between the boy and Trico, this however means there are often unbelievably infuriating moments throughout the game where I literally wanted to smash the controller against the wall or wish I could make Trico shoot himself in the face with his lightning tail.

As mentioned above when the gameplay clicks it does so incredibly well. Platforming and exploring around the giant ruins as the boy is great fun and often awe inspiring. The puzzles while simple are satisfying to solve and make use of Trico in some fun and interesting ways. The biggest surprise for me was the combat aspect of the game. It’s not combat in the traditional sense, the boy can’t directly attack the lumbering suits of armor that chase him about but the mechanics at play here are more deep than you would expect. The boy can jump on enemies to topple them over, shove them to make them drop objects or push them off ledges, throw items to stun them and even pull their heads off. When Trico is at play the suits of armor will use spears and swords to attack him and planes of glass to make him cower away. In response Trico will enter a fit of rage and smash all the suits of armor in sight as he constantly strives to protect the player from harm. Later on in the game the boy gains access to an item to take control of Tricos lightning tail which adds another level of complexity to the combat. Unfortunately the suits of armor are used sparingly and like the rest of the game these exciting situations can be plagued by the wonky controls and while fun these sections are extremely easy. It’s a shame because towards the end Trico and the boy work in tandem to successfully defeat small armies of enemies and one can only wish there was more of it or that it posed more of a challenge.

Soundtrack wise the game is pretty good. It’s used quite sparingly but what’s on offer here is used nicely for both quiet moments and the games more dramatic and action oriented sequences. From quiet subtle melodies to rousing and loud assaults on the ear drums the soundtrack has a quality to it that remains consistent and engaging throughout the roughly 10+ hour playtime. In many ways however the soundtrack can be considered to be somewhat uninspired and often comes across as very by the books. It can leave a lasting impression but equally it will often pass by  having fulfilled a purpose but nothing more.

Visually many people have likened The Last Guardian to the likes of PS3 era graphics, while the game was intended for a PS3 release I find this criticism to be unfair. The game is not the most visually impressive thing to experience on the PS4 nor is it the worst. The game takes place entirely in one location and the sense of scale and the interestingly designed buildings constantly beg for exploration. The games biggest fault on its visuals however is that the entire journey looks the same, the areas at the start look the same as the areas at the end apart from the segments taking place in the games big finale. The lack of visual variety for the most part is pretty disappointing as most games always do something to shake things up visually from time to time. That said what’s on offer here can be truly beautiful and awe inspiring, particularly as you get higher and higher the game is often best enjoyed by taking a step back and taking it all in. From the peaceful tranquility of small wooded areas to gazing out at the next massive tower you have to reach.

So one part masterpiece, one part infuriating, tedious trash. Despite the criticism however The Last Guardian is unique, coming out in a year in which most AAA titles involve massive killing sprees with machine guns. It often evokes feelings of nostalgia taking players back to a time when more games like this where made during the PS2 and PS3 era. I can’t recommend that people pick up and play this, but at the same time I feel it HAS to played so that you can figure it all out for yourself.

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Is Rouge One a better Star Wars film than The Force Awakens?

Rouge One: A Star Wars Story Review

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“The Force is Strong”

So Rogue One released the other day and for the most part has been received positively. There is as expected plenty of people that dislike the film, although a lot of this criticism seems a tad unfair. On pure spectacle alone Rogue One is not only a thoroughly entertaining film but a truly exceptional Star Wars film as well.

Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen) a former scientist for the empire is living a humble life with his wife and daughter Jyn, but is torn from this peaceful life by Krennic (Ben Mendelsohn) who uses him to complete work on the Death Star. Skip ahead a number of years and Jyn (Felicity Jones) along with a strong cast of misfits join together to steal the Death Star plans for the Rebel Alliance. From there the film follows a pretty straightforward narrative and for anyone who’s seen A New Hope they will know ultimately know how the film will end, not that that’s a bad thing. If anything the fact that the film takes place just before A New Hope and still manages to surprise and add new ideas showcases just how well executed the main narrative is.

The main fault with the film is its slow start, it often drags and the pacing feels off. This downtime however is essential in establishing the main cast of the film, namely the members of Rogue One but also the ambitious decked out in all white Krennic. The film does struggle in getting to know each of the main cast in any great detail apart from Jyn, but each member of the team brings something unique to the table in their actions, dialogue and choice of weaponry. Importantly enough is established by the films climatic end to add emotional depth to the finale. Personally the characters K-2SO and Chrrut steal the show whether it be K-2SO’s sarcastic comments or the badass combat skills of Chrrut taking on Stormtroopers with nothing but a stick. It’s not just the main cast that shine either, but pretty much all the supporting cast, from Mon Mothma and Bail Organa to the undeniably brilliant and downright awe inspiring moments with Darth Vader.

Visually the film is nothing short of spectacular. The Death Star now often overshadowed by even more destructive Sci-Fi armaments such as the Force Awakens own Starkiller base is yet again an imposing and deadly force. It is used expertly throughout the film and is responsible for some of the films most breathtaking shots, whether it be hanging ominously alongside Star Destroyers as it nears completion or unleashing its destructive might on a planet. It’s not just the Death Star that provides a visual treat but pretty much the entire film, from the varied and diverse planets visited to the clinical interiors of imperial installations to the explosive and action packed land and space battles. The battle sequences from the small to the large are worth the price of admission alone. In particular the finale which the film feels like its building up to the entire time is one of the most action packed and adrenaline fuelled  sequence of events to ever grace the big screen. The nitty gritty down in the mud action is perhaps the most dark the Star Wars universe has seen and thus provides a refreshing break from what you would come to expect.

Audio wise the film is on the same level as its visuals. The familiar sounds of the Star Wars universe are all present and accounted for and sound as good as ever. The big difference with Rouge One is that the score is not composed by John Williams but instead by Michael Giacchino. While noticeably different from the work of Williams the soundtrack takes appropriate nods and inspiration from the familiar Star Wars tracks. The result is a soundtrack that sounds like Star Wars but with enough changes to make it something more unique just like the rest of the film.

Perhaps where Rouge One succeeds best is in its ability to be a Star Wars film, it really does feel like a darker grittier version of the original trilogy. It incorporates all the things fans love from the original trilogy and as an added bonus even incorporates some details from the prequel trilogy as well, which is an appreciated touch. There are a number of noticeable nods to the overall franchise but it never loses focus on its identity in that sense it really is a Star Wars story, not a film that is needed or essential to the wider narrative but at the same time is both a thoroughly enjoyable standalone film as well as a masterful prequel to A New Hope.

Hunt for the Wilderpeople Review

Ricky Baker and his new foster father Hec get stranded in the New Zealand wilderness and due to a major misunderstanding quickly become the subjects of a nationwide manhunt. Cue one of the most delightful, heart-warming and funny adventures to ever grace the cinema screen.

First off let’s take note of just how beautiful this film is as in the sets themselves. The mountains, forests and lakes of New Zealand are undeniably amazing and are used to great effect here, from the opening shots to the film’s most intimate moments the film always takes place in the most amazing of locations. For the films narrative to work you do need to feel as if the main characters are out in the wilderness and the amazing locations do a great job of immersing the viewer.

The films not just some tourism fuelled eye candy however, there is real soul and joy in this film. Both main characters Ricky and Hec have great chemistry together something most definitely needed to pull off its narrative beats. From their rocky start the relationship builds up slowly and realistically over the course of the entire film, watching this grand adventure take place as it inevitably spirals out of each other’s control is simply thrilling and to great credit of the film remained unpredictable. Supporting characters are also incredible playing key parts to the story without ever interfering with the strong tale between Hec and Ricky.

The film is filled with great humour such as its very tasteful use of pop culture references, some very heart felt and poignant moments and even has a few slices of exciting action. The film never gets bogged down with over doing certain aspects of its story, instead everything works and clicks in together and moves at a pitch perfect pace.

Not much can be said to fault the film really. A slightly out of place scene involving some poor CGI only slightly tarnishes the pacing. Personally, the New Zealand accents were often tricky to understand, this is not an attack on the film of course but most certainly something to be aware of.

Overall an incredible film. Exciting, refreshing, heartfelt, beautiful. If you’re looking for the kind of the film that really hits the spot you can’t go wrong with Hunt for the Wilderpeople (Could certainly do with a more catchy title).